Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Few Items Of John Gaughan's Collection


First let me say, this is not my video. I've not yet been lucky enough to visit John Gaughan's collection. Maybe later in the year, maybe. But I found this online and any chance I get to see more of Psycho is a thrill for me. But then I got an even bigger thrill when I saw one of the automaton peacocks. I wrote about them here http://www.themagicdetective.com/2014/06/robert-hellers-magnifecent-peacock.html. Now the one that John has likely did not belong to Robert Heller, but it was a popular prop in the 1800s. In the video above you get to see it somewhat in action.

I do intend to get back to the blog, before too long,  it's been a super busy time with performances and an audition for a TV show with the initials AGT. But I shall return soon to the blog. A friend alerted me to an amazing story that I HAVE to share once I get back. And I've got a couple other things I need to research and find images for. Until then you can stay in touch via my Facebook page if you like. https://www.facebook.com/themagicdetective/

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

DC Jail Escape Follow-up.

The 10th Precinct Building

Back in 2014 I wrote an article about Houdini's 1906 jail escape in Washington DC from the 10th precinct. When I first wrote the article I thought  that the jail had been torn down. Later I discovered that in fact, that jail actually was still there and still operational. I finished the article by saying, "Maybe someday I'll head over there and check out to see if Houdini's cell is still there."

As it turned out, last year I received an email from a friend of mine who lives near there. He told me he was planning on going over and check the place out. But then I didn't hear from him. I figured maybe he never made it over. But alas, I ran into him at The Yankee Gathering in November 2016. The mans name is Charles Greene, and he is an excellent magician, speaker and magic historian/collector, and also owner of this site http://magicpostergallery.com/MagicPosterGallery/MagicPosterGallery.com.html

It turns out that Charles DID visit the 10th Precinct Station and went inside inquiring about a 'Houdini's jail cell'. The cell, was originally in the basement and Charles was told that they'd been removed a long while ago. Still he pressed on and asked to see for himself. Sure enough, there was nothing remaining. The building was still standing but the cell where Houdini did his escape was gone. And thanks to Charles, at least now we know!

Now please don't mistake this for Houdini's other, and more famous jail escape in DC from the Old DC Jail. That would be where Houdini escaped from the cell that once held the assassin to president Garfield. That escape would take place only 5 days later, on Jan 6th, 1906. Below are two views of the prison that may be new to many people. They come from the Library of Congress/Harris&Ewing Collection.

This Old D.C. Jail  was torn down in the early 80s. However, as an interesting side now, the stones used in the building were from the same quarry that supplies stones for the Smithsonian Castle. So some of the jail stones were taken to the Smithsonian to use in repairs of the Castle.


Houdini and the Boston Jail, Setting the Record Straight

I'll admit, I do my best to verify everything I put up here, but I have missed a couple of times.  It might be due to an outdated source that I'm using that got it wrong, or a newspaper that I didn't have access that might later alter the facts that I have. Alas, one of my earliest articles turns out to not be accurate and I'm not too happy about that. I had been given a tip that this was it, and couldn't find any information on other jails at the time, so I went with the tip. Later newspapers from the time confirmed that it was indeed NOT the Charles Street Jail that I had first listed, but rather the City Jail/Prison on Somerset Street.  I want to give credit where credit is due and that is to Bill Mullins who discovered the correct information and was kind enough to let me know! I am going to reprint the original article below but insert the proper information along with new photos. 

Houdini at the 'Boston Tombs'
Houdini escaped from the Boston Tombs in 1906. The photo above shows Houdini about to go over the wall of the Boston Tombs as the jail was called. The actual jail was the City Jail or City Prison located on Somerset Street in the Pemberton's Hill area. I discovered that it was common in that time to refer to a jail or prison as the Tombs. The most famous was the Manhattan Detention Complex in NYC known as The Tombs. 

The Escape
The date was March 19, 1906 and the Superintendent of Police William Pierce had agreed to lock up Houdini in their jail. He was first taken to cell number 77 on the ground floor where Houdini removed his clothes and was checked for keys and picks. Nothing was found and Houdini's clothes were then locked into this cell while he himself was taken to the second floor. He stepped into cell number 60 and was secured in handcuffs and leg irons. Then the Superintendent locked Houdini inside Cell #60 and he and the other police officials left Houdini and headed for the main office. They were confident that Houdini could not escape.

Sixteen minutes later Houdini was scaling the outer wall of the jail and running down the road towards Keith's Theatre. Houdini called William Pierce from the theater to let him know he had escaped! Shock set in. Superintendent Pierce asks Houdini to return so that the photographers can get a photo of him going over the wall (see photo at top of page). According to the Kalush Biography, the Superintendent told Houdini he expected him to show up in the jail office if he got out. He shook Houdini's hand and seemed happy with the results. Though Houdini's book "Adventurous Life of a Versatile Artist" paints a different picture. Houdini claims that Pierce's only response was "I have nothing to say".
The route of escape from the City Prison in Boston

The Jail Today

The building that once housed the City Prison is today called the John Adams Courthouse. It was built in 1885 and originally known as The Suffolk County Courthouse. I do not know if any of the jail, or the cells remain in the building or not. Looking at this photo, I can't quite match up this image with the one on the top of the page, so I'm guessing the back of the building is where the jail was likely housed. Houdini's cell #77 was on the ground floor, though he was moved to an upstairs cell #60.

Now I'm wondering, if the 'staged' photo at the top of the page might just have been taken at the Charles Street Jail, as that buildings facade totally matches up to the building in that photo? I'll eventually find a view behind this building and see what the rear of the building look like. For now though, the record has been corrected, thanks to Bill Mullins!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Happy Birthday Bess Houdini!


Bess Houdini was born January 22, 1876, which makes her 141 years old today. She honestly doesn't look it! In November, I attended the Yankee Gathering in Massachusetts and in attendance was John Hinson, Great Nephew of Bess and Harry Houdini. John is just the coolest guy. He clearly has a passion of magic history and especially the Houdini family. He loves to share the stories of his family and share rare photos, many that have NEVER been seen in print before.

John graciously has allowed me to share some of these pictures with you in the coming months, and I am very excited to be doing so. I don't yet have those pictures from John, but I know he's been busy so you'll get to see them soon enough.

For now we wish Bessie a very Happy Birthday!!!

HOLD THE PRESSES!!!! Bessie can have some cake today if she likes, but ole John Cox pointed out to me that John Hinson (the very same I mentioned above) showed him proof that Bessie was born on Jan 23rd!!!!!!!! Honestly though, having gone through many census records and birth records from the 1800s and seeing how dates change and fluctuate, its a wonder we have an accuracy at all. But, then again, if it comes from John Hinson's collection, I'm going to believe it! So 23 it is!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Rare Robert-Houdin Magic Token Help Needed

I was contacted by Paul Courville, a collector of magicians tokens,  concerning an item he has acquired of Robert-Houdin. Specifically, he is searching for any information or individual with information that could provide him with additional details about the item.

Paul found a reference for this coin dating it to France 1935, created by J Dhotel, however, the listing says the back of the coin is blank, but Paul's has writing on the back. The back of his coin reads "Association Francaise Des Artistes Pretidigitateurs". (see photo very bottom of page)

Additionally, he found an image of a plaque, which also has the 'Association....Prestigitateurs' on the bottom of the plaque and a bronze image of Robert Houdin in the center, with the exact same likeness as that of the coin. (see below)

If you happen to have any information regarding this coin and it's history, would you kindly contact Paul at paul@paulcourville.com